Apart from a good idea, what would you need for successful product development?
What steps have you, or would you follow when trying to develop your own product?
Jef Lippiatt , Owner at Startup Chucktown
I think this is a question that can help a lot of people forward in their journey.
- Flush Out The Idea - For an idea to become more than something in your head or doodled down on a napkin you need to expand on it.
- How? The easy way to do this is write down short clear thoughts and then categorize them into groups (e.g. Product, Target Audience, Price, Sales Channels, etc.). You can and should iterate on this process multiple times over the period of several days or weeks depending on the complexities of the underlying idea.
- Test Quickly & Inexpensively - You need to validate that your idea is worth pursuing with your time, energy and money before getting too attached to it.
- How? By using inexpensive or free tools to test your assumptions. You could quickly craft up a survey using Google Forms, Survey Monkey or other related tools to put one or several different surveys together. To ensure the surveys serve your purpose decide are you trying for "breadth" of answers (quantity) or "depth" of answers (quality). I don't recommend trying to do both in one survey. After you determine that, use your connections within your physical network or across social networks to share your survey with the type of customers you are hoping to connect with (don't just blast this and have anyone and everyone answer - doing so will dilute the strength of the collected information).
- Review Results - After collecting the desired number of survey responses, pour over the data without being quick to make judgments. Remember that you need to be open and connected with your potential customers. Do not disregard their feedback as uneducated, incorrect or invalid, or you will do so at your own peril. If your potential customers clearly need something else or want something slightly different, adjust your idea based on this feedback to better connect with your potential customers.
- Now You Need To Build - This is the time where you need to put together an early version of your product. If you are a baker start working kinks out of the recipe, if a furniture maker build a scale model, if software maker create a paper or low fidelity prototype.
- How? You need to be judicious with what you put into this version of the product. Ask yourself, "If I don't include this, will customers still get value?" If yes, leave the feature out, if no put a rough version of the feature into the design. Review each decision against the feedback you previously received. Is rough version ready to be put in front of potential customers? No, but you will do it anyway. It is counter-intuitive to test something that isn't "polished" or "finished" but it helps you iterate and adjust to feedback before you get so far along in the process you can't afford to later.
- Iterate Again - Take that initial round of feedback on your rough version and start building the next slightly better version of your product.
- How? Did you notice users not using a feature or not liking a feature? Pull it out. Don't try to rationalize leaving it in, the customers have spoken (you can always try the feature out again in a future version). Remember, if you don't include everything the customers want in the next version it is okay. Measure putting something in whether that would still be value without including it.
This of course has quite an alignment to the Lean Startup Methodology by Eric Ries, however, I do have some of my own liberties coming from a background of Product Design. I've also spent several months on putting documentation and forms and interactive forms together to put this process to a time table. However, it is not quite ready for public consumption. I will say, stay to relatively short blocks of time. If at any point your potential customers or your research proves an idea to be unsustainable for a business, go back to the drawing board and start on another idea.
Above all remember the process to continuously iterate and improve your offering, even once you have successfully launched and are making money. Comfort and complacency never lead to future growth or innovation.